With its Christmas trees and free concerts, West Vancouver’s Dundarave Festival of Lights is a great place to enjoy holiday festivities on the North Shore.
Christmas in West Vancouver
Billed as the “Ultimate Canadian Christmas” and running for over 25 years, the Dundarave Festival of Lights is a very quiet winter holiday festival on most days, but especially interesting on Saturdays during their free concerts.
Over the course of the month as many as 55,000 people turn out each year to celebrate the season and admire the festival’s Christmas trees and holiday decorations.
When, What and Where
In 2019, the Dundarave Festival of Lights ran from November 30th until the end of December. 2020 dates and details are to be confirmed.
The North Shore festival features a Forest of Miracles – comprised of dozens of decorated Christmas trees – as well as four Saturdays of free afternoon concerts. Also famous at the venue is the Dundarave Nativity, which is a life-sized nativity scene by master woodcarver Bill Seminoff.
The best times to visit the Dundarave Festival of Lights are during the concerts on Saturdays in the afternoons, and at night when the Forest of Miracles is all lit up. Most evenings you’ll find lots of decorated trees, but not a lot of people.
Forest of Miracles
The Forest of Miracles at the Dundarave Festival of Lights features a collection of dozens of beautifully decorated Christmas trees. It’s a festive fundraising attraction where local businesses, organizations and residents make a donation to the Lookout Society’s North Shore Shelter and then decorate their sponsored Christmas tree.
The collection of trees in the Forest of Miracles is a sight to see and all for a great cause.
Saturday Concerts & Events
Every year free concerts take place at the Dundarave Festival of Lights on Saturdays leading up to Christmas. Here is what happened in 2019:
- November 30th – Dundarave Christmas Fair (from noon until dusk).
- December 7th – Dundarave Nativity Paddle Songs (from noon until dusk).
- December 14th – Dundarave’s World Christmas (from noon until dusk).
- December 21st – Christmas Wassail & Bonfire Night (from 3:00 until 9:30 pm).
Dundarave Christmas Fair
The Dundarave Christmas Fair usually takes place on a Saturday afternoon close to the beginning of December. This is the day that Christmas tree sponsors come out and decorate their trees. The trees won’t look impressive until the end, after they are all decorated, but there is typically live entertainment to keep things entertaining.
In 2019 the Dundarave Christmas Fair happened on Saturday, November 30th. 2020 details are expected to be comparable.
At the tree decorating party and lighting ceremony of the Dundarave Christmas Fair last year, the Mr. Bannock Indigenous Food Truck was on site. The performance schedule for 2019 was as follows:
- 1:30 pm – Capilano University Jazz Quintet
- 2:30 pm – The Hot Mammas
- 3:30 pm – West Vancouver Youth Band
- 3:30 pm – Tree lighting Ceremony
Dundarave Nativity Paddle Songs
From around noon until dusk on Saturday, December 7th of 2019, the Dundarave Nativity Paddle Songs happened. This is always a First Nations’ event which includes the music of local songwriters as well as traditional songs by Squamish Elders.
To give an idea of what to expect, performers at the festival on the second Saturday in December in 2018 included the following. For future events details are expected to be similar:
- 12 pm – Squamish Elder Wendy Charbonneau and Friends
- 1 pm – St. Thomas Aquinas High School Choir
- 2 pm – Tsleil-Waututh Children of Takaya Dancers
- 3 pm – Black Pontiac Garage Funk
World Christmas Concerts
Dundarave’s World Christmas takes place from around noon until dusk on the third Saturday and features an international theme. In previous years, it showcased French, Mariachi and Celtic music. 2020 details are likely to be similar.
2018 performers at the event included the following:
- 12 pm – The Viper Central Duo
- 1 pm – Vancouver Morris Men
- 2 pm – Royal Canadian Scottish Country Dance and Ceilidh (community dancing)
- 3 pm – Burstin’ with Broadway
- 4 pm – Tiddly Cove Morris Dancers
Wassail & Bonfire Night
The last Saturday before Christmas Day is Christmas Wassail & Bonfire Night, which is usually from 3:00 until around 9:30 pm and is the last main event of the festival. Festival goers enjoy a large bonfire, the company of lots of people and a visit from Santa Claus. In 2019 this took place on Saturday, December 21st. 2020 details are expected to be comparable.
To give an idea of what to expect, 2018 details are listed below. The Christmas Wassail & Bonfire Night took place on Saturday, December 22nd, and included the following. Details for future events are expected to be similar:
- 3 pm – Best Christmas Pageant
- 4 pm – Blackthorn Band
- 5 pm – Bonfire Lighting
- 5:30 to 7 pm – The Wooly Bears and Square Dancing
- 7 pm – Santa
At the December 22nd event there was also performances by Circus Kids, an illuminated kayak flotilla, and carolling until the bonfire’s coals died down.
Also in the Area
While in the area, consider combining your trip to the Dundarave Festival of Lights with a visit to other nearby places of interest. The Beach House is a great restaurant right beside the event venue – just be sure to make reservations in advance, especially on a Saturday.
Dundarave is also right on the water and connected to Ambleside by the seawall, making the area a great place for walks. And finally, just a couple of minutes away is the West Vancouver Aquatic Centre which has one of the region’s best swimming pools, making it a fabulous place to visit if you have kids or want some indoor exercise.
Other places to check out on the North Shore this time of year are the local ski hills (which also offer snowshoeing, tubing and other winter activities), and other top Christmas attractions like Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain, and the Holiday Hi-Light Festival at the Park and Tilford Gardens in North Vancouver.
And if all those amazing places aren’t enough, just on the other side of the Lions Gate Bridge are the millions of Christmas lights at Bright Nights in Stanley Park where admission is by donation.
For more information on the West Vancouver event, click Dundarave Festival of Lights.
For more ideas on places to see Christmas lights in the Lower Mainland, check out Top Things to do at Christmas.
And for more fun things to do in December, check out Vancouver’s December Calendar.